A local Detroiter and electronic music fan, Patricia Lay-Dorsey is a testament to the world that music truly has no bounds. As a staple of Movement Festival for years, Grandma Techno has been showing younger festival goers that getting older doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying the things you love.
It was no surprise that during the first day, Festival Sherpa saw Grandma Techno supporting the sounds of Paul Woolford at the Thump Stage. Patricia was kind enough to answer a few questions and spend some time with us.
1. So how long have you been coming to this festival?
This year will be my twelfth time. I started coming in 2005.
2. Have you always been interested in electronic music?
Well, I started listening to this type of music since my first festival in 2005. At the time Carl Craig was running the festival, but back then it was called Fusion.
3. What made you decide that you wanted to attend that first year?
Usually my friend and I would go to all the music festivals in the city and Detroit has lots of music festivals, but this was one we hadn’t gone to yet so decided we’d like to try it. Now it was forty dollars back then which was a lot of money in 2005, but decided to try it anyway and we both fell in love. And in those days, I could stand up, hold onto my scooter, and dance and I would dance for hours. You know, when we were leaving the first festival, I remember someone conducting a survey out here on Jefferson asking what do you like best, house or techno? And I said, “I don’t know. I didn’t know there was a difference.” But now after coming here for 12 years, I can give you trance, grit, or dubby. I don’t know it all but this festival has taught me a lot. However, back then I was totally ignorant about it.
4. How did you get the infamous nickname of “Grandma Techno”
After my second year in 2006, I decided to go all three days the following year and that was the year they gave me the name “Grandma Techno”. I was over near where is now the Beatport stage and I wanted to see Benny Benassi at another stage but I couldn’t get through. So I asked a security guard if he could help and he did asking people to move out of the way so I could get through. Then someone from the back of the crowd yelled, “Let her through, it’s GRANDMA TECHNO!” and everyone started yelling, “GRANDMA TECHNO, GRANDMA TECHNO!” so after that it kind of stuck.
5. What makes you keep coming back each year?
I just love the energy. I love the kids as well as this particular venue. Hart Plaza is a beautiful place and is right in the middle of the city and I really love coming down here. Everyone is so loving and filled with love.
Yes, my festival is very different now. I love to listen to the music but a lot of times that has to come secondary to the people coming to say hi. Otherwise the priority is being Grandma Techno and being with the kids and try to be loving and understand that it isn’t me that they are responding to. They are responding to the fact that when they see someone like me who is old and disabled that nothing needs to keep them from coming here.
Credit also needs to be given to Paxahau the promoters. Every year I come and say it’s perfect the way it is, but every year they are changing it to make it better. They are never content.
6. What were your most memorable sets in all your years attending this festival?
You know what stays with me are the ones that I’ve heard more recently. However, I do remember one year Benny Benassi blew me away. He was at a stage that doesn’t exist anymore. I remember him being so funny. It isn’t that he is making jokes but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. I loved his energy.
Another favorite of mine for years has been Claude VonStroke. I love the way he keeps changing it up and I try to catch his set every time he comes.
I’ll tell you also who blew me away was John Digweed a couple years ago. What I loved about it was it reminded me why I love house in the first place. He is like a throw-back and I just loved his groove because it sent me someplace. And there’s no words but it just takes me there.
7. Now what do your friends and family think about your interest in dance music?
My husband is so used to this. We have been married now 50 years and knows that I am just crazy. And he doesn’t go places or do things, but he knows me and kind of brags about me. Sometimes my neighbors will read about me in the newspapers and they’ll go, “Grandma Techno? I never knew that about you?” But I’ve always been an individual and it ain’t gonna bother me.